Where’s the “T” in GLBT Romance?

The recent nomination for my ménage erotic romance, Platinum Passion, as Best Book of 2011 in GLBT Fantasy Romance, got me thinking.

What about the “T” in that GLBT tag? Where are all the transgender/transsexual romances?

I googled transsexual romance heroines and found only a handful of books that I would class as a romance (there are several in the straight erotica/porn field, but I write erotic romance so that’s what I’m discussing today). Why so few?

Is the issue of transgender (and its sub-category transsexualism) too removed from the wider experience to be a topic of choice for romance authors? Is it something that people feel they can’t relate to, and therefore they don’t want to tackle such a subject – either as author, publisher or reader?

The recent interest in Canadian transsexual beauty queen, Jenna Talackova, and her bid to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, has perhaps brought this topic more directly into the media spotlight in recent days. Yet I would argue it is still an extremely marginalized and misunderstood topic.

I wrote about ménage a trois and bisexuality in Platinum Passion (Gods of Love #1), yet in real life I’m not interested one bit in sharing my guy with anyone else! Hands off, ladies and gents! The book was nominated for an award, so I must have done something right in the telling of that story, even though the topic is outside my own personal experience.

Could I do the same with a transsexual (post-op) romance heroine? Could I possibly do justice to such a story and create a believable and engaging romance, when I have no direct experience of this myself?

I had already written most of Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2), but the story wasn’t grabbing me the way it should. I sat down to rewrite it, and with the LGBT label floating in the back of my thoughts, my beautiful and courageous transsexual heroine, Gina, came to life in my head. I knew she deserved no less a hero than an amazing Greek god like Himeros – someone who could accept her for who she is, as well as who she was – and help her to understand it is possible to be accepted even if you don’t fit into the mainstream idea of “the norm”.

So a bit of a rewrite for Aphrodite Calling has become a unique challenge and a whole new story, and my first transsexual romance heroine, Gina, is fast becoming one of my favorite characters.

What do you think about transgender or transsexual romance stories? Why are there so few? Is this something an author who labels herself as LGBT could be venturing into on a more regular basis? And is it something readers would enjoy? Please leave a comment – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Here’s a taste of what is to come when Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2) is released:

He’d just told everyone in the room he was taking her upstairs to fuck her brains out. Only he’d said it slightly more poetically than that. She reached up and rubbed her temples. “That’s the last school reunion I’ll ever be able to attend!”

Himeros pouted, looking slightly put out by her response. “Would you have wanted to attend another?”

“Well, no, but that’s not the point, really, is it?”

“Why not?”

“Well, because…I don’t know, it just isn’t!”

“Aha! So you don’t have an answer, then.” His triumphant smile made her laugh again.

“Who are you, Himeros, and why are you doing this? Helping me escape, I mean. Though,” she paused and looked at the numbers flashing as they ascended in the elevator, “maybe I’m not escaping out of here, as such. Am I going from the frying pan into the fire?”

He shifted a little, and the confined space suddenly seemed a lot smaller than it had a few seconds ago. She had the impression of vibrating energy, reaching out to encompass her, and if she hadn’t known better, she would have said his tanned skin held a strange shimmer that made him seem lit from within.

“I am Himeros, god of sexual desire, and I am here to answer your call to Aphrodite,” he said. “You are most certainly heading into the fire, but this is one fire you won’t want to extinguish, once you’ve felt the heat of these flames.”

“My call to Aphrodite? What does that mean?” It’s certainly getting hot in here, she thought. Why am I so…aware of him? I’ve been around men before. Sexy men. But it’s never felt like…like my body is finally waking up…

“Gina.” When had he moved closer? Why was he now standing directly in front of her, his arms raised to press a hand against the elevator wall each side of her head? “We will wake you up…together.”

Her breath caught. He was now leaning forward, almost…almost…touching her, his face so close to hers she could see the flecks of green in the blue of his irises, so close that if she raised her hand, she’d be able to trace the angled shadows cast by those gorgeous cheekbones…

“We’re here.” His words whispered in a puff of warmth across her lips and she parted them involuntarily.

“Are we?” How she was managing to keep talking was beyond her. She wanted to close the few centimeters of distance between them and explore that mouth again, to feel the firmness of his body up against hers, to enjoy the heat of a hard cock that wasn’t her own pressing up against the soft curve of her stomach.

“You have a choice, now, Gina,” he said. “Join me here, tonight, and I promise you will not regret your decision. But if you don’t want that… tell me now, before we step over the threshold…”

“Himeros,” she whispered, knowing what she needed to say. “I want to, so much, but there are things about me you don’t know…”

“I know everything, Gina. I told you, I heard your call and I am here to answer it, if you wish.”

She shook her head. “I’m afraid.” She closed her eyes to avoid seeing the revulsion and started when she felt the touch of his fingertips on her cheek. A touch that sent shockwaves right through her body, unfamiliar shockwaves in places that had been numb for too long. She’d been wrong. She wasn’t strong enough to handle everything. She wasn’t strong enough to handle this.

“Himeros.” She took a deep breath and pressed back as far as she could against the wall. “I’m not…well…I wasn’t…” Just say the damn words. Get it over with. “I wasn’t always a woman. I used to be—”

“You were born a man, and you used to be Gerry. Now you are Gina. I know, gorgeous one. I told you, I already know. Open your eyes and see how much I want you right now.”

Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2) will be out soon. The first novella in the Gods of Love trilogy, Platinum Passion, is available now from Amazon and All Romance ebooks.